Hylocereus guatemalensiscommonly called Pitaya or Dragon Fruit, is found in the Cactaceae family. It is an epiphytic, vine-like cactus native to Mexico, Central and South America. Hylocereus blooms only at night. If you come in to the Tucker greenhouse to see this beautiful flower, go into the Desert room, but try to get there early in the morning while the bloom is still open. It has huge white flowers, and when pollinated, they produce an edible red Dragon fruit which tastes like a kiwi fruit.
Hylocereus guatemalensis (Cactaceae) Photo by Chris Todd
Callirhoe bushii & Callirhoe involucrate, commonly known as Bush’s Poppy Mallow and Purple Poppy Mallow, are found in the Malvaceae family, the same family as Hibiscus & chocolate. We have both of these species blooming in the Tucker Mini-Prairie right now. They started blooming in late May and have been blooming in full since then. These beautiful plants with magenta colored flowers are native prairie plants. They prefer hot, dry, almost drought-like conditions. The genus name comes from the Oceanid Callirrhoe in Greek mythology. These plants are mat-forming, low growing & sprawling in habit. Rabbits love to eat their foliage. This might help explain why the Tucker Mini-Prairie is home to so many rabbits.
Callirhoe sp. (Malvaceae family)
Dianthus armeria, commonly called Deptford Pink is found in the Caryophyllaceae family. Like Saponaria officinalis or Bouncing Bet/Soapwort, Deptford Pink contains saponins which are toxic to mammalian herbivores. The tiny pink flowers on this plant can be easily overlooked. They are smaller than a dime, and the foliage is quite delicate as well. The common name ‘Deptford pink’ comes from Deptford, a town in the south of England where this plant once grew in great abundance. The genus name comes from the Greek words ‘dios’ (God), and ‘anthos’ (flower).
Dianthus armeria (Caryophyllaceae)
Saponaria officinalis, commonly called Bouncing Bet or Soapwort, is found in the Caryophyllaceae family. It is a native of Europe and has now become naturalized throughout the US. It has been blooming in the Tucker Mini-Prairie since early June and could bloom into September. The genus name Saponaria is derived from the Latin sapo, meaning soap. This plant also contains saponin which is a toxic substance. So, not a good plant to eat.
This plant does produce a lathery liquid when it comes in contact with water. It has been used as a soap replacement for dry skin by certain cultures. By boiling the leaves and roots in water, this lathery liquid can actually dissolve fats and grease.
Saponaria officinalis (Caryophyllaceae)
Tradescantia ohiensis, commonly called Spiderwort. This plant, with its beautiful purplish-blue flowers is
Tradescantia ohiensis (Commelinaceae family)
found in the Commeliniaceae (Wandering Jew) family. The genus name comes from two English naturalists, John Tradescant the Elder (1570-1638) and John Tradescant the Younger (1608-1662). John the Elder served as a gardener to Charles the 1st in England.
Members of this family have trichomes, or tiny hairs on the filaments of their stamens. When exposed to ionizing radiation, these hairs can mutate and change colors from blue to pink. The other cool thing about the flowers of the Tradescantia plant is that on sunny days they open in the morning and close in the afternoon, but on cloudy days, they’ll remain open longer.
Ratibida pinnata, commonly called Grey-head Coneflower is quite plentiful in the Tucker Mini-Prairie as well. It is found in the Daisy or Asteraceae plant family. This native Missouri species is easily distinguished from other yellow coneflowers and sunflowers by its drooping yellow ray florets. The species name pinnata refers to its pinnately divided leaves. The disc flowers on the head inflorescence smell like anise when crushed.. This species typically grows in prairies, and roadsides. It is known as a drought & deer resistant plant.
Ratibida pinnata (Asteraceae family)
Helianthus mollis, commonly called Ashy or Downy sunflower is a predominant species in the Tucker Mini-Prairie, and it has just begun to bloom. This plant belongs in the Asteraceae or Daisy family, one of the largest plant families on earth. The root system of this plant is rhizomatous, allowing it to spread uncontrollably underground. It can spread very aggressively, and its root system exudes allelopathic chemicals that can inhibit the growth of other plants surrounding it. Common habitats for this plant are dry to mesic prairies, sand prairies, rocky glades, & roadsides.
Lots of different types of pollinators visit the flowers of the Ashy sunflower. Primarily bees visit the flowers for nectar or pollen. Goldfinches are partial to the seeds of this plant. Two caterpillars of the butterflies Chlosyne nycteis (Silvery Checkerspot) and Chlosyne gorgone (Gorgone Checkerspot) feed on its leaves.
Helianthus mollis (Asteraceae)
This is Eryngium yuccafolium or Rattlesnake Master. It is a member of the Apiaceae or Carrot family. It is blooming right now in the Tucker Mini-Prairie. It’s a native Missouri plant usually found growing in tall grass prairies. Early European pioneers erroneously thought that the roots of this plant could be used as an antidote to rattlesnake venom, hence the common name. The silver gray leaves of this plant are yucca-like in appearance. Rattlesnake Master’s head-like inflorescence attracts many types of pollinators, such as bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, & beetles. The rare caterpillar, Papaipema eryngii (Rattlesnake Master Borer Moth) bores into the stems of this plant in order to feed on the pithy interior. There are three of these plants found on the Tucker Mini-Prairie.
See if you can find them!
Monarda fistulosa,, commonly called Wild Bergamot or Bee Balm is blooming right now in the Tucker Mini-Prairie. It is a member of the Mint family, (Lamiaceae). This plant has a strong minty fragrance, and it is the source of oil of thyme. Monarda generally flowers from June to September in Missouri. Like most members of the mint family, the plant grows and spreads by creeping rhizomes, therefore it commonly occurs is clumps.
Native Americans used this plant as a medicinal tea to treat colds. It contains a natural antiseptic called thymol.
I’m fascinated by plant names. Apparently Linnaeus named the genus Monarda in honor of a 16th century Spanish Physician and Botanist, Nicolas Bautista Monardes (1493-1588) who studied medicinal plants in Spain. The species name of fistulosa means tubular.
Did I say that the bees LOVE this plant?